Looking Backward by David MacClement Rowe
Part 3: 1876-1888 Trip home to Dayton & School

Immediately after the farm was sold we prepared to vacate. I bid a last farewell to all my youthful acquisitions and after our household good[s] were carefully freighted we took the train back to Evansville where we embarked on an Ohio river packet for Cincinnati.  In those days many of the best packets were quite palatial  Some were side wheelers and some stern.  I remember that one was a stern wheeler.

I do not recall any particular incident during the river trip except that I fell in love with a young maiden aboard which is quite the custom during water travel. We were quite chummy and helped each other to pass the time quite pleasantly  At this late day I do not even recall her name, which is also quite common for early loves  I was then past seven we were several days in making the trip counting stops at different points.  We had excellent meals aboard you will see that I always mention the eats.  I slept well on the boat.  The nights were cool and the motion of the boat gave a sort of rocking sensation to which I was accustomed up to a few years before.  The steady chugging of the exhaust had the effect of a lullaby, and I imagined I was being 'Rocked in the Cradle of the Deep.'

In [due] time we arrived at the port of Cincinnati amid many foul smells which I distinctly remember as they were very distasteful to my rather sensitive and highly esthetic olfactory organ.

From Cincinnati we took the train for Dayton, where we arrived rather late in the evening and repaired at once to my grandfather's house on Perry street where the folks had a warm supper for us. I was at last back to where I started.

        Later we settled in a home of our own and my father bought out a retail and commission grocery business 1 at the corner of Main and South Market street.  The old market house was still standing..  It was an open shed sort of a building.  My father did a good business but two much in credit and during the panic of 1873-75 like many other merchants he failed.  Several wholesale merchants offered to stake him until the panic was over but he declined as he had lost all his own money and would not take a chance with other men's money.

        He then entered the employ of [a] coffee and spice company operated by a man 2 who is now very wealthy and prominent in the community.  This man I believe admits that my father put a boom into his business that it had not previously enjoyed.  Through my father's efforts this man's products were in time sold as far south as Florida and Texas, and west to California.

But we had to begin all over and for some time it was like a hen scratching for bugs in a stone quarry. However, we gradually got on our feet again, and became tax-payers.  This was partly due to my mother's frugality.

One of the first things to settle after arriving in Dayton was to settle me in school was then eight years old.  My mother took me to the Second District school on Perry street long since passed away.  Then I was introduced to a Miss Brown 3  who lorded over the first grade.  I remember she said, "Why Carrie, to think I taught you and now you are bringing your boy to me.  How time flies.  And some more of it flew before she died in the harness,  for she was still teaching when I started my children in school.  All which goes to show how long some school teachers last.

        Owing to the fact that I had had a Primer for a couple of years, I knew my alphabet and could read "The cat is on the mat."  Probably because there was a picture over the sentence showing the cat on the mat.  Miss Brown found that I was rather a precocious chap and one day asked me to read something from the Second Reader.  I think it was "Little Bo Peep," which I knew by heart.  I was very successful in the test, and she took me over to Miss Moodie 4  teacher in the Second year and I read the same thing to her without a break. Thus it was that I really started in the Second year.  Where according to my age I rightfully belonged.

        I shall not tire you by relating all my school experience during the various grades as they were much the same as is common to all.

        I recall one experience which happened in the seventh grade which may be interesting.  You may know that after a circus visits a town all the school boys become circus actors  and the town is filled with amateur performers.  Clowns, wild Indians and so on.

        In those days we were frequently visited by mesmerists who give exhibitions at Union hall.  They usually passed out tickets at the school gates which together with five cents would admit any school pupil to the Saturday matinee.  Immediately after that  all the boys were experimenting with the mesmeric art.  That brings me to the point.  I saw some fun in pretending to let one or two mesmerize me. One was the son of Captain Stivers 5  who was the principal of Central High School.  It was often granted pupils to stay in at recess to do some extra studying young Stivers and I  stayed in one day and while the teacher was out he mesmerized me.  I clasped my hands over my head then he made [a] motion and said Now you can't take your hands down.  If you will just join your fingers over your head and pull down you will find you cannot pull your hands apart.  So I was preparing this wonderful feat when the teacher came back she caught us at it.  I knew that one or the other was due for a flogging and decided it should not be me so I kept primping around  trying to get my hands down until I was red in the face.  Stivers was snapping his fingers for dear life but I would not regain consciousness.  This frightened the teacher.  When I thought she said I could not help it.  I succumbed to the snapping of Stiver's fingers and released my hands.  Then the teacher sent Stivers to the principal's office where he got the flogging and I went on with my studies quite innocently.

From the Second District I went to the Intermediate School on Brown street 6 to prepare for High School. There I was under the tutelage of Mr. Sam Wilson 7  its principal and others.  Come to think about it there are a good many Wilsons. Wheeler and Wilson Sam Wilson and Woodrow Wilson.  Something like Smiths and Browns.  Speaking of Browns One of my teachers in Intermediate was Miss Carrie Brown 8, sister of Miss Jenny Brown who booted me to second grade.

        The only teacher in Intermediate who even really got nasty at me was Miss Alice Jennings 9 .  She called on me to read one day and I did not know the place.  She shouted sit down stand up go out in the hall and I did all three.

At last I arrived at High School where I was under the eye of Prof. Werthner 10 who taught me high algebra, botany.  some geology, how to raise microbes in a glass jar, and how to behave myself in school.  This task he did by making me stay in after school for a week at a time.   After some prank he would say go to the board and mark yourself for two days after school.  However I was not so  unfortunate as some of the fellows.  Why I know some who were thinking of getting him to supper till ten o’clock at night.  That was the professor's bedtime.  It was a wonder some of them even got home at all.  Some of them would still have about two months to make up when school let out for summer vacation.  When the professor would order you to put down two or three days after school he always did it with a twinkle in his eye and we all knew he was all right at heart.  The boys always spoke of him as "Billy" Werthner and that in boys means they liked him.  He knew a lot of funny stories and used to entertain us on Friday afternoon.

Captain Stivers taught me physiology.  He was a tall slender man, very straight and of a military bearing, but very kind.  He possessed much dry humor.  We had a human skeleton in the physiology room.  It was concealed behind a curtain when not in use.  One noon some boys dressed it up in some girls' wraps which they took from the hooks in the hall.  They put a hat on it and some other things. When our class entered for the afternoon study Captain Stivers sent one of the pupils to draw aside the curtain.  Where behold, was quite a lady.  Rather thin in the face, but all dressed up with no where to go.  Everybody laughed, including the Captain.  Then he said, I hate to have the lady disrobed in public but I suppose it will have to be done.  He then called on Frank Bissel to perform the task, and the skeleton soon appeared in all her bony loveliness.

And now, Frank, said the Captain, suppose you point out and name all the bones in the human body As I remember it, Frank named them all including the wish-bone.  Then the Captain asked him, Is there anything about the skeleton that you have missed?  Frank could think of nothing.  Look at the spinal column and see if you can find anything you  did not mention.  Frank said there is an iron rod on which the vertebrae are mounted.  Well, said the Captain  never forget that the human body contains iron.

[missing] is up  shouted the chief canner [missing] may continue at the next session.

 

 

Footnotes

 

1. Rowe Brothers started with his brother William G., but later purchased William's share. (according to Benjamin Norris Rowe's obituary)

2. Edward Canby (Benjamin Norris Rowe's obituary)

3.  M. Jennie Brown teacher 414 W. 2d Dayton OH 1888, 1889

4. Probably Emma G. Moodie teacher n w e 4th and Ludlow Dayton OH 1888, 1889

5.  Capt. C. B. Stivers Central High School principal 339 N. Salem, Dayton View Dayton OH 1888, 1889

6.  Intermediate School, Brown and Hess

7.  Samuel C. Wilson Fourth District School principal rooms 17 E. 3d Dayton OH 1889, 1890

8.  Carrie S. Brown teacher 414 W. 2d Dayton OH 1888, 1889

9.  Alice Jennings teacher 31 N. St. Marys Dayton OH 1888, 1889

10.  Wm. B. Werthner teacher 209 N. McDaniel, Riverdale Dayton OH 1888, 1889

 
( Noted by Linda Lee Tope Trent at the end of this text: “Unfortunately, this is all the chapters that I currently have.  Hopefully more will come in the future, but I rather doubt it.”)

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